|Pilot 2nd Lt. Arthur F. Eastman, O-678001 (MIA / KIA) East Orange, NJ
MIA August 18, 1944
Prewar, Eastman lived at 111 S. Harrison Street (on the corner of Berwyn Street) in East Orange, NJ. The building is located two blocks south of present day Route 280. Eastman was a pilot attached to the 27th Air Depot Group.
Built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (LAC) in Burbank, California. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-38J-20-LO and converted into a F-5E-2-LO photographic reconnaissance version. Disassembled and shipped overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 27th Air Depot Group (27th ADG), 5th Engine Overhaul Squadron (5th EOS). No known nose art or nickname. When lost, engines V-1710-89 and -1710-89-91 serial numbers A-049667 and A-049483.
On August 18, 1944 took off from Finschafen Airfield at 10:53am piloted by 2nd Lt. Arthur F. Eastman for local test flight after repair by the No. 5 Engine Overhaul Squadron, 27th Air Depot Group (27th ADG). Between 10:00am to 11:00am, weather at the airfield was unlimited ceiling with an overcast at 10,000' with visibility of 12 miles or better, wind south at 8 mph. Last seen at take off, failed to return. In fact, this aircraft crashed into Mount Salawaket at 7,000' in the Finisterre Range into triple-canopy jungle.
After his loss, fellow pilots search 350 miles along the coast for a total of 21 hours over three days searching an area approximately five miles inland from coast from Dobodura to Saidor. No trace of the pilot or aircraft was found.
On April 13, 1950 Australian Patrol Officer (kiap) R. H. Bamford based at Finschafen located the wreckage of this aircraft near Koilil village (Koili) and noted the tail number as "423227". The Patrol Officer recovered the skeletal remains including a jaw bone and a U.S. silver dollar coin dated 1890.
Recovery of Remains
On May 12, 1950 the remains recovered by the Patrol Officer were turned over to the US Army to 1st Lt. John Shypula, American Graves Registration Service (AGRS). Designated unknown X-5262 were stored at Manus No. 1 Cemetery then transported to the AGRS Mausoleum at Manila Cemetery. These remains were sent to Manila Cemetery then sent to Hawaii for burial. For reasons unknown, the remains were buried as an unknown, although they were obviously associated with this crash site.
In 2004, the crash site was visited by JPAC reconnaissance team including Brian Bennett . A JPAC excavation team returned to the site during February - March 2007. They found additional human remains, dog tags, personal effects including his service cap and Air Corps ring engraved with the initials.
The recovered remains were transported to the JPAC / CILHI Laboratory, Hawaii. Dental comparison was inconclusive, but all other evidence pointed to Eastman as the pilot. On March 24, 2008 the Department of Defense (DoD) officially reported the identification of his remains.
Eastman was officially declared dead a year after the crash on August 19, 1945. Memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery. After his identification in 2008, a rosette was added next to his name, indicating his remains were recovered.
The remains recovered by the Australian RAAF Search Team in 1950 were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) at grave Q-1293 marked "unknown" on December 19, 1950.
The remains recovered in 2007 by JPAC were buried on September 5, 2008 at Arlington National Cemetery at section 59, grave 3184. His date of death on his grave site is (incorrectly) listed as August 19, 1945, his administrative date of death.
Patricia Berg (great-cousin of Eastman)
Jeanne (Eastman) Welch (sister of Eastman)
Arthur & Marian Eastman (parents of Eastman)
USAF Serial Number Search Results - P-38J-20-LO Lightning 44-23227
"23227 lost over Finesterre Ranges on local test flight Aug 18, 1944."
Territory of Papua and New Guinea "Crashed aircraft in Salawaket Mountain area reported by Luluai of Simbeng - Hube" by R. H. Bamford
May 10, 1950.
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-38J (F-5E) Lightning 44-23227
X-File Unknown Manila Manus X-5262
(293 File) via Ted Darcy
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Arthur F. Eastman
FindAGrave - Lieut Arthur F. Eastman (tablets of the missing photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Arthur F Eastman (grave photo) date of death incorrectly listed
New Release No. 229 "Missing WWII Airman is Identified" March 24, 2008 [PDF]
NJ.com "East Orange WWII pilot's remains found in Papa New Guinea" March 24, 2008
Star-Ledger "Forgotten No Longer: Epic hunt for long-missing soldiers turns up pilot from N.J." April 3, 2008
WFI Research Group - JPAC Follies / Half Way Home by Ted Darcy with unknown grave photo
Thanks to Ted Darcy for additional information
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June 4, 2019